Former University of Washington defensive end Ben Davidson, who lettered under head coach Jim Owens in 1959-60, died Monday in San Diego. He was 72.
A part-time starter when he played for the Huskies, Davidson gained fame after he went to the National Football League, especially during his years with Al Davis’s renegade Oakland Raiders.
Born June 14, 1940, in Los Angeles (attended Woodrow Wilson High School), Davidson was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer in San Diego, where he had retired. Former Raiders coach John Madden reported Davidson’s death Tuesday.
The 6-foot-8 Davidson began his athletic career as a basketball player, but Owens recruited him to Washington to play football. Mostly a work-in-progress during his time at the UW, he helped the Huskies win Rose Bowls in 1960 (Wisconsin) and 1961 (Minnesota).
After leaving Washington, he returned to Husky Stadium every year for a few years to participate in the Varsity-Alumni spring football game.
Following the 1961 season, the New York Giants selected the still-raw Davidson in the fourth round of the NFL draft. But he didn’t make the Giants’ squad and subsequently joined the Green Bay Packers, helping them win the 1961 championship.
Davidson spent 1962-63 with the Washington Redskins before signing with the Oakland Raiders in 1964. He became a second-team Associated Press All-AFL selection in 1965 and a first-teamer in 1967. He played with the Raiders through 1971 and finished with 152 NFL games to his credit, including 70 starts.
Davidson became famous for his handlebar mustache and physical play.
”He was a tough, gutsy ballplayer, team=oriented with enough meanness in him to be feared and enough talent to be effective,” said former Raiders teammate Tom Flores.
Flores, a former Seahawks head coach and team president who recently played golf with Davidson, added, ”He was just a big, tall, skinny guy that Al Davis took a chance with. He was able to rush the passer and worked hard to get bigger and stronger.”
Following his career with the Raiders, Davidson played for the Portland Storm of the World Football League.
After football, Davidson became a successful actor and had roles in films such as “M-A-S-H,” “Conan the Barbarian” and “Necessary Roughness,” and he played himself in Miller Lite ads that featured his former Oakland coach, Madden, and comic Rodney Dangerfield.
Davidson is survived by his wife, Kathy, and daughters Jan, Dana and Vicki.